|Up for grabs: eNews presenter Sandile Nkosi and I with the trophy|
After a frantic penultimate ABSA Premier League Saturday, here's the facts:
1 Only Orlando Pirates or Moroka Swallows can now win the title.
2 If the Buccaneers win their final game at Arrows, they retain the title.
3 If the Sea Robbers draw and the Dube Birds win, Swallows snatch it.
4 If Pirates lose, Swallows must still win at Maritzburg United.
5 Siyabonga Nomvethe is FIFTH player to reach 20 PSL goals in a season.
6 Moeneeb Josephs wants Pirates caretaker Augusto Palacios to stay.
7 SuperSport United, despite beating Sundowns, are out of the race.
8 Dutch legend Johan Neeskens is under huge pressure.
9 Kaizer Chiefs produce late winner to end Free State Stars’ challenge.
10 Jomo Cosmos are relegated. Barring a miracle.
Yup, what a day of drama it was. Sponsors ABSA certainly got their money’s worth. And we’ve got another week of nail-biting still to come.
Champions Orlando Pirates, 1-0 down to an early Bloemfontein Celtic goal, looked like they’d thrown it away at the Orlando Stadium. Letladi Madubanya silenced the Ghost, who barely had an attempt on goal to celebrate in a dire first half.
But the Ghost were brought back to life by Thulasizwe Mbuyane’s equaliser after an agonising 73 minutes following a cross from Ndumiso Mabena.
Then along came Siyabonga Sangweni with the header which means the Buccaneers just need to win at Lamontville Golden Arrows in their final match to successfully defend their ABSA crown.
Sangweni’s goal means Bucca Bucca remain two points ahead of Swallows but the Birds have a narrow advantage on goal difference.
If the Birds fail to win at Maritzburg United next week, they’re gone. But if they win and Pirates draw or lose, the title goes to Dube.
Siyabonga Nomvethe, the veteran striker I wrote about in The New Age last week, scored twice for Gordon Igesund's Birds at Dobsonville, which was enough to see off Platninum Stars 2-1. That takes the 34-year-old from KwaMashu to 20 goals this season - only the four others have ever achieved that in nearly two decades of Premier League action in South Africa.
With Pirates 90 minutes away from a historic title defence, caretaker coach Augusto Palacios refused to go overboard. Through his big Peruvian smile, he told kickoff.com: "The last game we have, we need to win that game. Not any other results we will accept. If we draw we are out, it is clear we need to win that game.
"Until we win that came, then we can say we are champions, I can't say anything until we play that game against Arrows, which is a difficult game."
"I'm very happy with the character we put in after we made an early mistake by conceding an early goal.I must credit the players; it was not an easy game. It was very difficult game, Celtic for six games were unbeaten and had a very solid defence, but we knew the goal would come and we continued to put pressure and we got it."
Few expected Palacios to achieve glory after the departure of Julio Leal, but he will be difficult to dislodge now. Pirates chairman Irvin Khosa may be the Iron Duke, but even he would surely struggle to axe a second successive championship winning coach if three points are secured next Saturday.
Those wins for the two oldest top flight clubs in Soweto saw the other four contenders fall away in the title chase. Free State Stars were looking like possibles until Kaizer Chiefs produced a late winner, with caretaker coach Doc Khumalo looking like he's won the World Cup when the whistle went to confirm a come-from-behind 2-1 win. Quite what Brazilian Leal and Ruud Krol must think, who knows?
Perhaps he was cheered up by the news that Chiefs will keep their technical team intact despite the arrival of new coach Stuart Baxter with his dodgy CV.
SuperSport’s 1-0 win over Mamelodi Sundowns wasn’t enough to keep them in the (Gavin) Hunt.
Quite what happens at Sundowns now after their alarming late season slump is hard to say. The great Dutch master Johan Neeskens simply failed to come up with anything when it mattered.
Sibusiso Zuma's 79th-minute goal was enough to decide a League clash which previews the all Tshwane Nedbank Cup Final showdown.
Elsewhere, Santos grabbed a 2-2 draw against AmaZulu to keep survival hopes alive while Ajax crushed Arrows 4-1 in Cape Town. Jomo Cosmos - held 1-1 by Maritzburg - now need to beat Leopards and Santos with a combined goal difference of +5 to avoid the automatic drop spot.
So we go in to the final Saturday in South Africa just like they are in England. If QPR can hold Manchester City or Arrows can deny Pirates, everything changes.
You can follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol or read my Neal and Pray column every Tuesday at www.thenewage.com. I'll be on eTV Sunrise Classic Play at 7.30am on Monday, followed by eNews (DSTV 403) at 8.15am with Collins' Corner.